A Breakthrough in the Rare ALS Disease

Remember last summer when everyone was pouring buckets of ice on their heads? The extremely popular, and viral, movement helped provide research for Lou Gehrig’s disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). If you donated to this cause, you should feel good knowing a recent major breakthrough in research is giving some credit to the success of raising more than $220 million in donations since 2014! 

The breakthrough in research unties reasons why the protein called TDP-43 clumps together on the outside of the nuclei of the brain cells on the people affected. TDP-43 is supposed to decode DNA, but in ALS patients it’s unable to read the DNA and the cell dies within a few days. Robert Gebelhoff, from The Washington Post explains, “When the researchers inserted a special protein designed to mimic TDP-43 into the neurons, the cells came back to life and returned to normal. That sparked fervent interest the treatment could possibly be used to slow down or even halt the disease.”

The campaign raised $115 million in 2014 alone, which was a 4,100 percent increase in fundraising from the $2.8 million collected in 2013. The power of social media (YouTube videos of the challenge were watched more than 1 billion times), and celebrity influence created a viral movement that got people talking and donating.  

Even though ALS is a seemingly rare disease in the U.S., the breakthrough in research, and the money raised for the cause are going beyond ALS alone. Phillip Wong, a professor at John Hopkins who led the research team says, “Understanding these proteins could have a much broader impact on diseases – such as Alzheimer’s disease, muscular dystrophy, and inclusion body myositis – which may benefit from the treatment”. 

Content created by Annie Albrecht, Worley Erhart-Graves Financial Advisors